How to Market Your App to Get 1K Downloads on Launch Day [CASE STUDY]

How to Market Your App to Get 1K Downloads on Launch Day [CASE STUDY]

Knowing how to market your app to get a meaningful amount of downloads is difficult. Especially if you’ve never done app marketing before and don’t have a marketing budget. This is the exact situation Ryan Martin of Ensomniac Studios was in when he and his team launched their first title, Glint, on the App Store. Unlike most indies who won’t break 1,000 downloads in their app’s lifetime, Ensomniac scored over 1,000 on launch day. Below is the app marketing process Ryan and his team followed to beat the odds.

Successful App Marketing Case Study:
Ensomniac Studios

Challenge
With no marketing budget or prior app marketing experience, secure at least 300 downloads for first title, Glint, on launch day.

Solution
Build and execute a marketing plan based on expert advice gleaned for free from the web.

Ensomniac’s Marketing Process:

  1. Gather Expert Advice:
    Having never launched an app before, Ensomniac had to first learn about app marketing. For this, the studio spent countless hours scouring the web for useful “how to market your app” videos and articles published by marketing experts and developers. Among these resources was my very own “How to Market Your App on a $0 Budget” video, which largely drove the team’s marketing plan.
  2. Build a Marketing Plan Based on Commonalities:
    As Ensomniac reviewed various app marketing advice, it searched for commonalities. Things like: “you must have a trailer,” “a development blog is required,” “start marketing early,” “make your marketing material irresistible” and so on. Based on these commonalities, Ensomniac constructed the below marketing plan:

    • Build an amazing game.
    • Amass a fanbase.
    • Create irresistible marketing materials.
    • Contact and secure press.
    • Launch on the App Store.

    All marketing documents, including the list of “how to market your app” resources and marketing plan, were saved as Google Docs. This allowed the Ensomniac team to easily communicate deadlines, share ideas and more in one centralized location.

    glint-google-docsEnsomniac organizes its marketing documents in one easy-to-access location on Google Docs.

  3. Execute the Marketing Plan:
    With the plan in place, Ensomniac began execution. The below provides a bit more detail on how each step was completed.

    • Build an Awesome Game
      Although it wasn’t traditional marketing advice, experts agreed that to be successful, a game must have more than good marketing–the game must be good. Ensomniac took this advice to heart and spent a great deal of time ensuring a good game. Not only did the team focus on what it thought was good gameplay, graphics and so forth, it consulted real users.

      Before launch, Ensomniac reached out to members in several forums (primarily TouchArcade) asking for their opinions on Glint. The real user feedback received helped Ensomniac make a stronger game.

    • Amass a Fanbase
      As Ensomniac fine tuned its game, it amassed a fanbase. Ensomniac established a development blog, as well as social media properties, to generate awareness and give people a place to follow its progress. Ensomniac posted game updates and relevant content to each frequently. The team generated further awareness by getting involved in well-known forums like Reddit. By launch, Ensomniac had acquired almost 5,000 Facebook fans and 3,000 Twitter followers.

      Glint development blogEnsomniac promoting its GDC presence on the Glint development blog.

    • Create Irresistible Marketing Materials
      Once Glint had been fine tuned, the marketing materials “fell into place.” The team spent a great deal of time creating a trailer video, “making of” video, screenshots, press release, game description and more. Special attention was given to aesthetics, simplicity and message. Once completed, these materials were posted to an online press kit made accessible to the public.


      Glint trailer video.

    • Press Outreach
      Ensomniac compiled a list of review sites that had covered Glint-like games in the past, as well as corresponding contact information. Using this list, Ensomniac reached out to each writer with a personalized email introducing Glint and explaining why it would appeal to his/her readership. The team also attached its marketing materials and provided promo codes.

      At the beginning of its outreach effort, Ensomniac didn’t get much of a response. A few bloggers had expressed interest, but not much more. Then something amazing happened: AppAdvice requested exclusive coverage of the Glint’s launch. The team agreed and received a feature article two days before the launch, followed by a full review the day of. Shortly after, Pocket Gamer and App Spy published reviews.

      Glint AppAdvice reviewGlint scores a review on AppAdvice.

Ensomniac’s Key Take-A-Ways and Lessons Learned:

  1. Press Coverage is Everything:
    Even though Ensomniac’s social media efforts helped boost its initial download numbers, none of its marketing efforts equaled the power of the press. The reviews the studio scored in AppAdvice, Pocket Gamer and App Spy contributed to the vast majority of its downloads, reinforcing the important role press plays in an indie’s success.
  2. Stage and Share Your Game Early:
    As an unknown indie, the press will NOT jump through hurdles to cover your game. This means asking a writer to join Test Flight and download your game is a good way to score ZERO coverage. Ensomniac learned this the hard way. If given a second chance, the team would have distributed promo codes earlier by staging on iTunes earlier.
  3. Continued Marketing Means Continued Downloads:
    After the initial launch, Glint’s downloads dropped to 300 per day. To get the numbers back up, Ensomniac attended GDC for added exposure. The team’s efforts at GDC had an effect, increasing downloads to 800 per day.

Results
Glint received over 1,000 downloads on launch day (233% over its goal) and at least 300 each day since. In addition, Ensomniac has been contacted by several interested publishers, but has made no commitments.

Glint results

About Ensomniac Studios
Ensomniac Studios has been producing high quality digital content since 2002 and is the personal publishing platform of Ryan Martin. Based out of San Francisco, California, Ensomniac Studios is currently focused on mobile app and game development. Glint, the studio’s first title, is a gorgeously-addictive, fast-paced puzzle game. Dodge bombs, collect rings and score exciting power-ups as you climb through the innumerable levels bursting with brilliant colors and stunning visual effects. Learn more about Ensomniac Studios and Glint at ensomniac.com or download Glint for free.

Many thanks to Ensomniac Games for allowing Indie Game Girl to cover its successful iOS launch of Glint.

Emmy

Emmy Jonassen is a marketing pro who helps indie developers build adoring fanbases. Marketing people who love buzz words call this "lead generation."

28 Comments

Kevin

about 3 years ago

Thanks for the enlightening article. I have one question: In lessons learned you mention "If given a second chance, the team would have distributed promo codes earlier by staging on iTunes earlier." Can you explain what you mean by "staging on iTunes?". As I understand it the only way to give a pre-release version of your app to reviewers is via an ad hoc build through TestFlight or similar. How would you give promo codes to an app that is not yet released?

Reply

Emmy

about 3 years ago

Hi Kevin, thanks for the comment. You are right, the only way to do this is with TestFlight. When I write "staging," I am referring to TestFlight. This is what the developer used to distribute promo codes.

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Ryan Martin

about 3 years ago

This does get a little tricky. It's correct that in order to have promo codes, you need to have your app staged in iTunes and approved by Apple. My suggestion is to get Apple to review your app as soon as possible. What we did with one of our upcoming titles is polished it to a point where we knew it would be approved by Apple and was press ready - not production ready. We staged the app, Apple reviewed and approved it. It's now staged and we have promo codes to give out, but it isn't available to the public yet. If you can get to this point, I think it's a much better opportunity than suggesting the press use Test Flight.

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Michael

about 3 years ago

Hi Emmy Im just wondering, was this app released as a paid or free app? Thanks Michael

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Emmy

about 3 years ago

Hello Michael. The app was originally released as a free app. I believe it is $1.99 now. For your second question, I will reach out to the developer and see if he can answer.

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Michael

about 3 years ago

Hi Emmy. Thanks for your reply. I would certainly be interested in hearing what he has to say about that question alright. Thanks for going to the trouble of contacting him and finding out for me. I must also say iv only started to read some of the blog posts you have here but I must say theres some real gems. I'll look forward to reading more of them and also following some of your new stuff in the future. Thanks Michael

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Ryan Martin

about 3 years ago

Glint was initially launched as a free game. We wanted to get the game into as many hands as possible and keep the acquisition friction low. We're currently testing different price points to explore the potential of premium versus freemium. I'd be happy to share some of our findings here when we have a bit more data.

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Michael

about 3 years ago

Also was it localised for markets such as germany or was it just released as an english version in all stores for example?

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Ryan Martin

about 3 years ago

Hey Michael - Glint actually is not localized. I think this was a big misstep on our part. We've released a title since Glint that was localized in 12 languages and the game saw a quarter million downloads in the first week. With most of the downloads coming from localized countries, it seems like that was a huge help. Localizing a game after it's made can be a pain, but if you think about it from the beginning, it can be made to be fairly painless. Moving forward, we will be localizing everything.

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Mickael

about 3 years ago

Great article, once again !

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Davide Coppola

about 3 years ago

Interesting story and thanks for sharing so many details, but I really can't see this game as a successful example with less than 10,000 installs in the Play Store and probably a similar number in the App Store.

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Emmy

about 3 years ago

Hello Davide and thanks for the comment. This case study isn't necessarily meant as a success story in terms of huge profits. It's more meant as an example of what one developer did (using marketing) to defy odds and score over 1K downloads on launch day--something that many indies cannot do. Also, it is not noted in the article, because the article was written previous to when these decisions were made, but at a certain point, Glint became a paid app and then went back to being free. That may have had some impact on the total numbers you see on the Play Store.

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Unni Mana

about 3 years ago

Hi Emmy, This is indeed an informative article for a person like me because I just developed a small 2d game in Android for Sudoku lovers. It is already there in the App store. I launched this last week. Since then , I am hardly making 1 - 2 installs per day. I have clarification here. It is pretty stupid question. How can we start marketing it before the game is published into store? Ultimately, a person knows a game once he gets a lead and invariably he is trying to download it from App store. So if the game is not there in the app store, users cannot download it.

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Emmy

about 3 years ago

Hi Unni. Great question. You can absolutely (and should) market your app before it launches on the App Store. While you won't be directing people to download the app before it launches, your goal should be to generate interest in the app by talking about it in blogs, showing videos/screenshots/etc. Your efforts in this "community building" portion of your marketing that happens before your game is launched, will help you establish a group of people ready and waiting to download your app before it is published. You may find this article relevant.

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Sushrut Padhye

about 3 years ago

Thanks, Emmy! This was very helpful! We are about to launch an app that we developed for our client. We have already started doing marketing and I am just trying to put the pieces of the app marketing puzzle together. I have a couple of doubts that I want cleared before progressing any further. Is it worth paying huge sums for Press Releases on websites like PRweb? I want to know whether it will get any return on the investment. I would also like to know as to how did you generate the buzz before the launch, since there is no way for people to judge and validate the usefulness, uniqueness or for that matter the functioning of an app. Any help would be appreciated.

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Emmy

about 3 years ago

Hi Sushrut, It's hard to say re: PRweb. I've known some people to use these kinds of services and really like them, and others definitely found they're a waste of money. Either way you decide to go, I would definitely recommend you distributing through Gamespress. This is a free press release distribution service, tailored to the games industry. There are many ways to generate buzz before a launch. Social media is a big one, i.e., building your social media community, participating in things like #ScreenshotSaturday, etc. As far as offering a way for people to judge a game's uniqueness, usefulness, etc., there are ways for this too. In fact, videos are a great way to show people why your app is unique or useful. After being made, you can post your videos to YouTube and spread them around via social media. You could also start reaching out to press and letting them preview the game before it is fully released. Those are just a couple ways that come to mind immediately. Hope this helps and good luck!

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Pat Rack

about 3 years ago

Great article. Just enough details to be useful, not too much to be too long and become too specific. Well done.

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Leo

about 3 years ago

Hi Emmy, Great post, thank you for sharing your knowledge with the community! Do you think it's best to have a separate site for the development blog (separate from the app's landing page)? Or would you add a link on the landing page to direct visitors to the development blog? I like what Glint did with the asset design time lapse video - it's cool to see behind the scenes content. I'd like to use something similar as part of my marketing strategy, just not sure if it's wise to add too much to the landing page. What are your thoughts? Thank you, Leo

Reply

Emmy

about 3 years ago

Hi Leo, great question. My best answer, is to ask you this question: "what do you want your landing page to do?" If the landing page's goal is to turn visitors into purchasers/players, then you don't want to clutter the page with superfluous information (no matter how cool it is). All the assets, elements, copy, etc. you put on the page should be to convince your target market why they should buy your game/play your game. Anything else could end up taking their attention away from your intended action. Hope that helps!

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Pavel

about 3 years ago

Hi Emmy, Thank you for that article. I'm trying to follow your advises and hope it will help. As for now I've started a development blog, created Twitter account and trying to promote my blog in the some game development forums. A question here - does it make sense to create a subscription form in the WordPress based blog? Thank you for your great materials, Pavel.

Reply

Emmy

about 3 years ago

Hi Pavel, if you're going to put the effort into maintaining an active Wordpress blog, you should absolutely have a subscription. This allows your followers to sign up to get updates and stay connected. (It's like allowing them to follow you on Twitter, but better because they're giving you their email address--a much more personal form of communication.) Email addresses allow you to open more of a direct dialogue when you have important updates/announcements. So, my answer is yes: definitely create a subscription form!

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Cory

about 3 years ago

Hello, I'm not far off finishing my first game as an indie for iOS and I'm thinking about he whole "marketing early" approach. I'm not sure which exposure to use "early" and what to use on launch, when the game is available for download. I've got a preview from pocket gamer and it got a bit of attention (though I wasn't really ready to take full advantage of it), and it feels like it would have been more benefit having the game linked to and ready to buy at the time, rather than "build interest". Given someone fairly new is only going to get so much coverage, is it better to spend it on launch than risk people dismissing it because it's not ready yet (then likely ignoring further coverage on it because they've seen it already)? Perhaps save the "big ones" for launch and try to build an expectant fan base with more, smaller review sites?

Reply

Emmy

about 2 years ago

Hello Cory and thank you for the comment. My suggestion to anyone who wants to start marketing his/her game, but doesn't have enough of the game done to really show off, would be to focus on building a large community of engaged fans. This includes growing your social media communities, as well as your subscriber base (i.e., blog readership, newsletter, etc.). The reason you do this is to have a fanbase ready and waiting to receive your game at launch. However, amassing this fanbase is much easier said than done. It involves having an active presence on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, newsletter, etc. and consistently publishing content that is highly sharable because it has value to your audience. Hope that helps and good luck!

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Max

about 2 years ago

Thank you for a great post I'm just thinking of its good or i can say its best way to get many download by submiting to press list. However, as an unknown indie (and a tons of other submission), we indie will have a very low chance to get previewed by those press/journalist. Do you have any recommend of how to approach those press sites better than just send them the game/intro/promo code. Best

Reply

Emmy

about 2 years ago

The best chance you can give your email of actually getting opened and read is by having a pre-established relationship with a journalist you're sending the email to. That's why I place emphasis on trying to establish rapports with journalists well before your launch. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you're reaching out to a journalist with whom you have no prior relationship, try to personalize that email toward that journalist by making your game relevant to him or her. One example may be reading his/her recent articles and getting a feeling for his/her angle and writing how your game fits in well with that angle.

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Eugen Steffen

about 2 years ago

Thank you for the infos Emmy. Hope can still use this technics for our Android Game projects.

Reply

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